There is something about a trip to Texas that always makes me crave a can of Lone Star Beer. Connoisseurs can turn their microbrewed noses high into the air. There is no need for an arbiter of taste to tell me a Lone Star will never join any list of the finest brews. Lone Star is simply a can of “suds,” which is fine by me. Oh, and it must be a can of Lone Star. A bottle will not do. Here is why.
In our home, there are two revered coaching legends. Tom Osborne for me. Barry Switzer for Laura. The two battled each other for years back when Nebraska and Oklahoma ruled the Big 8 and the college football world. As great as the two were, they always seemed total opposites in their lives. Osborne spoke in a quiet, “ah shucks” tone, while Switzer could spin tales like few others. Osborne seemed straight-laced next to the gregarious Switzer who loved to perpetuate his devilish image.
There was something about that impish behavior that appealed to Laura, who was attending Oklahoma and playing basketball during some of the Sooners most glorified days. Laura’s eyes still twinkle whenever she talks about Switzer. That is why we had to attend the Fort Worth Bowl luncheon the day before KU played Houston in the 2005 game. Laura was not going to miss Switzer, the keynote speaker.
During his rollicking speech, Switzer told the tale of recruiting a prized player out of the state of Texas. An OU assistant had done most of the work in preparation for a visit by Switzer to seal the deal with the player’s father. The father was a Texas A&M Aggie and far from sold on his son playing for Oklahoma. The other thing Switzer needed to know was that the father REALLY loved his beer. The visit would be a waste unless Switzer knocked back more than a few beers with the skeptical father. By now, Switzer was rolling and dragging the banquet crowd right along with him as he and the assistant drove up to the player’s home.
Remember, this is the coach who once had the Oklahoma team bus stop in Lincoln at the then popular drinking hole, Barry’s, just blocks from the Nebraska stadium. On the eve of one of titanic clashes between the two football powers, Switzer waved the bus on to the hotel and entered the bar that was not named for him, but was still a place that welcomed the enemy’s coach for two hours of fun.
A few beers with a recruit’s father would be no problem. There was just one last recruiting advantage Switzer wanted. He asked his assistant to drive around to the back alley first. There the man who led Oklahoma to three National Championships rooted through trash cans to discover that Lone Star beer was the only beverage of choice for the recruit’s father. Getting back into the car, Switzer signaled the assistant it was time to head for the front door.
After all the usual pleasantries, the father offered Switzer a beer. Without hesitation, Switzer replied that though he would love to have a beer, there was no way in the world he would drink any thing other than his absolute favorite beer, Lone Star.
With the crowd in Fort Worth now laughing loudly, Switzer proudly announced that he did not leave that Texas home until he had not only the son’s verbal committment, but more importantly, the father’s blessing.
Whether the story was true or not mattered little. I roared right along with the crowd and my delighted wife. The image of a can of Lone Star is branded into my mind. Every time the first gulp slides down my throat, it does so in tribute to a great storyteller, a fabulous coach and someone who means a great deal to the woman I love. That makes a Lone Star good “suds.”